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Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) was recently detected in wild and domestic birds in Larimer County. HPAI can affect wild birds even if they are not showing any symptoms. In a flock of domestic birds, avian influenza is a fast-spreading and deadly virus, with a mortality rate of more than 90% in just a few days. While the risk of HPAI to humans is low, people can become infected, so the public is asked not to touch any dead or sick wild birds.
The Larimer County Department of Health and Environment (LCDHE) is working with CDA, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and other state and local partners to respond. The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) asks all bird owners to increase their biosecurity practices, especially residents with domestic backyard flocks. Suggested actions include keeping a closed flock, decreasing interactions between domestic and wild birds, and keeping feed and water away from wild birds.
Bird owners should:
- Protect flocks with good biosecurity practices and be vigilant in reporting signs of illness
- Monitor flocks for signs of illness
- Report suspicious disease events or illness to the State Veterinarian’s Office at 303-869-9130
Residents who own backyard birds should take extra precautions after any walks or hikes where they may encounter wild birds, especially waterfowl like geese and ducks. Always clean your shoes and remove any soiled materials after coming into contact with bird feces before entering the premises where your birds are housed.
Signs of HPAI in birds include:
- Sudden death without clinical signs
- Lack of energy or appetite
- Decreased egg production
- Soft‐shelled or misshapen eggs
- Swelling or purple discoloration of head, eyelids, comb, hocks
- Nasal discharge
- Coughing or sneezing
- Lack of coordination
“Avian flu continues to affect wild and domestic birds across Colorado. With wild bird migration beginning soon, we anticipate that we will see an increase in virus activity through late winter and spring,” says Colorado State Veterinarian Dr. Maggie Baldwin. “While we have seen high mortality in wild birds, they can also be infected with avian flu without appearing sick, which is why biosecurity is so important.”
HPAI does not present a food safety risk. Proper handling and cooking of all poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F is recommended as a general food safety precaution.
Bird owners struggling with stress or anxiety around HPAI can contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling 1-844-494-TALK (8255) or texting TALK to 38255. Farmers and ranchers can receive a voucher for six free sessions with an ag-competent provider through the Colorado Agricultural Addiction and Mental Health Program (campforhealth.com).
Bird owners seeking more resources can visit the USDA’s Defend the Flock website or visit PoultryBiosecurity.org.
For the up-to-date status of the quarantine and recommendations, visit ag.colorado.gov/hpai.